Denver’s traffic sucked.
Driving in from Denver International Airport wasn’t bad at first, but then we got into the city. That’s when we began to experience everything I hated about driving in Chicago. By that I mean having to pay attention to more cars and lanes than I wanted to.
Two lanes would merge into three, and I’d have to watch from all directions as cars around moved across the highway in different directions.
If I hadn’t been driving I might have been able to pay attention to the bright blue sky, and how different the landscape was. Left to itself, Michigan is covered with large trees.
Colorado tends to be covered with grasses, and small trees, many of which are evergreens. Not only can you see the sky, but you can see for a long way on the ground. Plus, any time you get a little height while you’re in Denver—by going down a long hill, for example—the Rocky Mountains loom in the distance.
It probably says something about me that my strongest association with mountains is Mordor.
But again, I wasn’t paying much attention to them. I was driving my van through rush hour traffic in Denver Colorado, and hating it.
“I could have driven,” Haley said.
She sat in the front passenger seat, tapping on her phone as she caught my eye. That was the good part of all this. We were driving from Denver International Airport to the Castle Rock Compound for the summer.
The Castle Rock Compound, a gated community for supers and their families, was hosting the students in the Stapledon program, and starting this summer, Haley was in the program.
That meant that unlike every Stapledon weekend during the past school year, I’d actually be able to see her.
“That’s okay,” I said. There were a lot of reasons for me to drive. The best was simply that the van was something of an unfinished engineering project, and explaining the workarounds for all the things that didn’t work quite right would take too long in a situation where we actually had to use them.
The other important reason was that Haley’s reflexes, agility, senses, and spatial judgement were superhuman, allowing her to fit vehicles into spaces other people didn’t even realize were an option.
This meant that her driving style probably matched some of the better trained drivers in the world, and also that riding with her was completely terrifying.
Glancing down at her phone for a second, she said, “Google Maps says the other highway is faster.”
“I know, but it’s a toll road.”
Ahead of us, the cars were slowing down in both lanes—not to zero but to forty-five. In short, we slowed down, but not to a crawl.
“A toll road?” She sounded as if she was about to start laughing. “I’m sure we could scrape together the money between the five of us.”
From behind me, Cassie said, “Wait, we’re taking the long route because you don’t want to pay a buck fifty?”
“It’d be more like three-forty. I checked the website.”
At that point, Haley started laughing for real, and Cassie said, “Oh, God.”
I could see her in the rearview mirror. Blond hair in a ponytail, Cassie wore jeans and a t-shirt. She was rolling her eyes.
In the seat behind Haley, Jaclyn said, “You know you’re probably wasting as much money in gas as you’re saving in tolls?”
I shook my head. “I’m not. The van runs on fuel cells. The engine noise is fake.”
Half in the mirror, Jaclyn shook her head, and raised her hands to stop me. “Okay, I’m done. Vaughn, what about you?”
“I’m too busy hanging with my friend the cabinet to pay attention.” Behind Cassie, Vaughn grinned.
The van only had one seat that far back. A cabinet took up the other half of the cabin. Everyone’s luggage sat in a pile behind Vaughn.
Cassie turned around, “Seriously Vaughn, joking about being stuck in the back with the cabinet is getting a little old.”
Vaughn ripped a piece of paper out of the notebook he was holding, and threw it at her.
Cassie’s arm blurred as she tried to catch it—tried being the operative word since she didn’t get it.
Jaclyn held the crumpled piece of white paper in a hand that was several shades darker. I hadn’t even seen her move.
With a hint of a smile, she tossed it to Cassie.
Cassie threw it back at Vaughn. It hit him on the forehead. “That’s barely fair at all,” he said.
He was grinning though.
Traffic aside, this felt good. The only way it could be better is if Daniel were with us. He’d opted to ride on the busses with his girlfriend Izzy, and everyone else in the program.
That was okay. They seemed to make each other happy.
Deciding to concentrate on the road, I realized that the cars in the right lane were merging into the left. A white semi-truck in the right lane turned on it’s blinker signal, and began to merge directly in front of me.
I let it.
Once it was in the lane, I could see why everyone was merging, and why we’d slowed down to ten miles per hour.
A line of vehicles—an SUV and two cars—had smashed into each other. Police cars, an ambulance, and a red and white truck (paramedics, I assumed) parked on either side of them, lights blinking.
Haley stared ahead at the crash. “I hope they’re okay.”
I nodded. “Me too.”
I wondered what route the Stapledon busses had taken. Alex had to be on one of them. Providing they weren’t dead, he’d be able to heal everyone.
I wondered if he would. I’d noticed that even though he and his father did spend time going to hospitals, they seemed to save most of their strength for supers.